Those that put their shoulder to the effort at moving to social business are achieving very real and statistically significant benefits.Fresh off the road and putting the final touches on a new book (more on that in an upcoming post), I've been catching up this week with new reports from several leading research groups as they've assessed how social business has been doing and where it's headed in general. There is good news overall in terms of growth as well as crucial new insights that decision makers looking at updating the way their organizations engage with their workers, customers, and the world should be tracking.
First off is Forrester's new estimate of the size of the social business industry, which they've put at $6.4 billion by 2016, an order of magnitude larger than the (by comparison) paltry $600 million it was just last year. Although the size of the entire worldwide investment in social business has recently been estimated to be as high at $100 billion, Forrester is specifically tracking the investment in the enabling software itself. This includes enterprise social networks, social collaboration suites, and other social business solutions, and not the entire project investment that organizations make as they roll out social software. This does not seem to be a either lowering or raising of previous projections, such as their 2008 forecast that the industry would be $4.6 billion in size by 2013. For a useful cross check, we can see that ABI Research's new figures, which were released today, has lower figures yet shows a very similar 57% yearly growth (compared to Forrester 60%.)
What is interesting, however, is the fairly low estimates of actual adoption by Forrester, citing that only 12 percent of information workers are provided with enterprise social collaboration software, while just 8 percent of them use it once a week. This is one of the lowest estimates I've seen, especially given that Forrester has previously reported here on ZDNet that nearly a third, or 29%, of enterprise workers are using social tools this year.
These numbers contrast with McKinsey's fifth annual report on how social technologies are faring in the enterprise, released a few weeks ago. Their report claims the following:
Seventy-two percent of the respondents report that their companies are deploying at least one [social] technology, and more than 40 percent say that social networking and blogs are now in use.
So while the data on social business adoption, at least for internal use, varies considerably from as little as 8% to as much as 40% (and sometimes even higher as I cited recently in an exploration of all social business adoption trends), the one trend that has been abundantly clear over the years is that uptake and actual use continues to grow year over year. In fact, whatever the actual adoption rate is, it was less than last year and will be greater next year, of that there is virtually no dispute.
However, this does underscore one major issue with tracking enterprise sales for social business: Sales of licenses or seats does not necessarily translate into adoption. In fact, far from it. From my research on social business adoption, I've found that workforce collaboration and business processes which supported by social tools, at least the way they're often deployed, is often perceived as an optional activity and one that's often not well integrated into how work gets done. Workers already have older (though theoretically less effective) ways of getting work done that they know, understand, and are thoroughly and culturally habituated to. In other words, sales of social software doesn't tell us nearly as much about what's really happening with social business in the enterprise as much as those within the organizations themselves actually reporting what they're specifically doing.
This then is what makes McKinsey's latest yearly survey of social technologies in large organizations much more interesting in terms of finding out what's really taking palce. In the 2011 data, they've captured a detailed snapshot from over 4,000 global executives, by far the most ever to have participated in their research. What emerges from their study of not only this year's data, but the information gathered across all five years, is fascinating. In my analysis, I believe there are some very significant new pieces of information that organizations deploying social media across their functional units and lines of business should be acutely aware of.
Based on this data, the key takeaways from social business and enterprise usage over the last five years of adoption are the following:
The upshot is that sustained success with social business is happening for some organizations, but that most companies are still in the "developing" phase. However, those that have been successful are continuing to report, year after year, compelling benefits and results. Yet it's also clear that social business is yet another technology-enabled change that will have uneven adoption across the enterprise world, and the likely effect is to even further separate the leaders and the laggards. Finally, those that put their shoulder to the effort at moving to social business are achieving very real and statistically significant benefits.
Note: I'll be catching up on my blogging over the holidays and making my round-ups and predictions for next-generation enterprises. Stay tuned for updates on social, next-gen mobile, consumerization, big data, and much more.